Death toll rises as heat wave grips Northern India

A villager sprays water on his livestock to protect them from heat in Ballia district, Uttar Pradesh state, India, June 19, 2023. [AP Photo]

"All our staff has been here for three days straight and are completely overworked," said Dr. Aditya Singh, an emergency medical officer.

The wards in the hospital had no functioning air conditioners, and cooling units that were installed were not working properly because of the power fluctuations. Attendants were fanning patients with books and wiping their sweat in an attempt to keep them cool.

Officials said more severe cases were being shifted to hospitals in bigger cities nearby such as Varanasi, and more doctors and medical resources were being sent to the district hospital to deal with the heat-induced crisis.

Climate experts say that heat waves will continue, and India needs to prepare better to deal with their consequences. A study by World Weather Attribution, an academic group that examines the source of extreme heat, found that a searing heat wave in April that struck parts of South Asia was made at least 30 times more likely by climate change.

"Plans for dealing with heatwaves are essential for minimizing their effects and preserving lives. These plans include all-inclusive approaches to dealing with high heat occurrences, such as public awareness campaigns, the provision of cooling centers, and healthcare assistance," said Aditya Valiathan Pillai, an associate fellow at a New Delhi-based think-tank, Centre for Policy Research.